Foundation Builders

GSN takes a closer look at how some of the student-athletes in the 2009 Michigan State football recruiting class — the most heralded group of players pledging MSU in years — might shake out in the years to come.

Role players. Every great college football program collects young men who fit this description.

Like any class of recruits, some gifted athletes will rise above the competition and some will provide the team with vital depth and flexibility in positioning — role players.

That second type of player won't hear the accolades or warm in the glow of the spotlight, but at Michigan State, they are much appreciated, and some even rise through the ranks; witness Blair White, former walk-on turned team leader.

The players below bring valuable versatility or stout frames to the football field, and if they persevere in the years to come, they will play an integral role in MSU football, whether they break through as starters or not. Successful programs are built on the shoulders of players like these.

Derek Hoebing (6-foot-6, 245-pounds) picked Michigan State because the Spartans like him at tight end.

The young man showcased his blocking skill set in a high school program that featured a power running game, though, so the MSU staff knows full well the talent Hoebing will bring to the offensive line.

And if he's just too good at sloberknocking, or if there is attrition at those brutal O-line positions, a slide down the line would surprise no one. The young man even has the make-up of a defensive end, should his talent and the team's needs steer him in that direction.

Denzel Drone hails from a pigskin Mecca — Florida — and has a ton of potential waiting to burst out of his 6-foot-1, 225-pound body.

The Plant City native worked the clock at both tight end and defensive end in high school but was almost exclusively recruited as a defensive end. To describe him now, one might moniker Drone a third-down rush end, but few players are happy with situational play.

The work for Drone will be in gaining mass and perfecting his technique so that when opportunity peeks, he'll be prepared to show how far he has developed.

The sizable Dan France played on the offensive line and as a defensive end in high school, but at MSU, defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi sees France as a tree on the inside of the D.

At defensive tackle, France will use his 6-foot-6, 270-pound plus frame, much like the similarly sized and athletic Oren Wilson, to disrupt the continuity of opponents' offensive lines. But like many Spartan athletes, the potential for France to end up elsewhere on the roster remains a realistic possibility.

Nate Klatt got plenty of recruiting interest, including overtures from Ohio State, but decided Michigan State was the right place for his 6-foot-4, 285-pound body.

At worst, Klatt projects to a versatile presence at a rugged position, much like Mike Bacon, the Spartan senior who spent his career moving around the O-line and stepping in when injuries took their toll or where depth mandated.

But Klatt should have plenty of opportunity to contribute after a redshirt season and might find himself with a chance to fill a need on the offensive line — where projections are perhaps the most unreliable — as an upperclassman.

Dana Dixon brings some rocket boosters to the class of 2009. A track star in the offseason, Dixon will be able to stretch a defense or contain an offense with his vertical speed.

Dixon will need to grow into his 6-foot-3, 180-pound frame and develop under strength and conditioning coach Ken Mannie's watchful eye, but when he hits his stride in East Lansing, he should be a steady contributor, on offense, defense or special teams,

Patrick White (6-foot-0, 175-pounds) may be the most versatile athlete entering the MSU program next season. A productive player in high school at both wide receiver and in the secondary, White has a thorough knowledge of both sides of the field.

He's experienced, too. White participated in over 40 high school football games and is already enrolled at MSU. This is a young man who wants it and will bring a vital energy and drive to this class, regardless of how his play on the field, whether at corner, safety or receiver, shakes out.

That's what great programs are built on.



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